MINNEAPOLIS, MN – After trailing Virginia by 10 with only 5:22 left to play in the National Semi-Final on Saturday night, the 5th seeded Auburn Tigers showed their true grit in the final moments of their 2018-19 season.
“We just — all season long, we’ve been through a lot of adversity, and Coach does a good job of just keeping us together.” said Auburn Senior guard Bryce Brown, “Me and Jared do a good job of keeping the guys together. We’ve been down like that before, and I think it’s just staying together, somebody stepping up and just letting everybody know, no matter what happens, don’t go off and do your own thing.”
After a free throw from Samir Doughty sank to trim the deficit to 9, the Tigers took the momentum for whatever it was worth. Brown drained one from deep,
Then an offensive goaltending by Virginia, kept life in the Tigers, as brown sank another triple, making it just a 3 point game with 3:27 to play.
At the other end, Diakite Mamadi went in for a layup, but it was blocked by Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore. The Tigers took advantage of this despite their first shot of the ensuing possession by Jared Harper being blocked by Mamadi. They hauled in the offensive rebound and Danjel Purifoy put in the close jump shot to make it just a 1 point deficit for the Tigers with 2:46 to play.
Mamadi got to the line after that for UVA, but missed both shots. Then once again, Brown dialed it in from deep, sinking yet another triple. This one put the tigers on top 59-57 with 2:16 to play.
Over the next minute and 59 seconds, neither team was able to put in a basket. After Ty Jerome missed a triple for UVA with 32 seconds to play, and Brown secured the rebound for Auburn with 27 seconds left, it was foul time.
It took three consecutive fouls from Virginia to finally get the Tigers to the
With 17 seconds left to play, McLemore gotto the line and drained two shots for the Tigers to make it a 61-57 lead for Auburn.
Then at the other end, Kyle Guy drained a triple with just 7 seconds left to play, making it a one point game. On the inbound, Harper was immediately fouled and he went to the line shooting two.
Harper would make the first but missed the second. Then almost immediately after Jerome corralled the rebound for UVA, he was fouled by Doughty of Auburn. They still had a foul to give though, and shortly after the inbound to Jerome, he seemed to lose possession momentarily and then picked up the ball in what appeared to be a double-dribble, that wasn’t called. Then Brown fouled Jerome with their last foul to give, leaving just 1.1 seconds on the clock.
As apparent as the double-dribble seemed to be, it’s just on to the next play in that situation from Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl, “We were in a situation late where we had some fouls to give, and I knew there was a disruption there. You’ve just got to get on to the next play.”
On the inbound, the ball was given to Guy, with Doughty in defense. Guy threw up the shot as Doughty challenged, not touching Guy, until he came down from the three point shot hitting his right leg with his chest,seemingly inadvertently, but clear as day. The final buzzer sounded and it looked as if the Tigers were headed to the National Title game.
However, much to the disappointment of Auburn and their faithful in attendance, a foul was called on the last shot, sending Guy to the line for three shots. Guy sank all three leabing just .6 second on the clock.
Auburn wasn’t able to get off a shot off ahead of the final buzzer sounding and their season was over.
McLemore finished with a team-high 12 boards to cap off his Final Four. Doughty led the team in scoring with 13 points. The two Auburn backcourt leaders, Harper (11) and Brown (12) combined for 23 points, with nearly all of Browns points (9) coming in the final 5:03. Something’s that coach Pearl doesn’t want to get lost in the midst of the chaos and disappointment after being asked about the calls that could of, would of, should of.
“But it won’t — it can’t define — don’t let it define the game because then you’re taking away from Ty Jerome or you’re taking away from Anfernee McLemore with 12 rebounds, or Bryce Brown almost leading Auburn back to an incredible come-from-behind victory. I’d love that to be the story.”
Brown resinated that seitment in his own words, not dweling on the could have and should have, but moreso on the journey of the Tiger family making it this far.
“I wouldn’t have rather did it with any other guys, any other coaches in the nation. Truthfully, I feel like we have the best players, best coaches.
“It’s been family all my four years, and I wouldn’t trade this team for nothing.” said Brown in closing.
The 2018-19 Auburn Men’s basketball season was truly one for the story books, and one they will talk about around Toomer’s Corner for many years to come!